ABC11 Investigates

Emails shed new light on bus use by DPS Superintendent Eric Becoats

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

There are new developments surrounding the Durham Schools bus scandal.

Superintendent Eric Becoats used a school activity bus for a family affair. Now, the ABC11 I-Team has uncovered that he wanted to use the bus to shuttle teachers to political rallies as well.

The school system confirms Durham teachers have used activity buses at least twice in the past five years to attend rallies in Raleigh. However, it is no longer allowed.

In May 2011, Durham teachers were in a crowd joining frustrated educators protesting deep budget cuts in Raleigh. How they got there is the focus of several emails obtained by ABC11 after Becoats apologized for using a school activity bus for his family, including a trip to Southpoint Mall.

Becoats repaid the school system, calling it a mistake. He said he was unaware of the local and state policy. However, email after email suggests otherwise.

Against the advice of the school board's attorney, a Durham teachers' union paid $217 for an activity to attend that rally back in May 2011, but their most recent request for a ride to the "Moral Monday" protests was denied.

When it comes to Becoats' family bus trip, it appears Becoats was warned and even encouraged to use a charter bus months before.

The district's transportation director recommends a local bus company for $825. To that, Becoats replied, "This seems pricey."

When asked whether Becoats intentionally violated the board's policy on activity buses, he says he did not remember receiving any advice regarding the use of activity buses.

He told ABC11, "The truth is, I should have known about the policy. I did not use my best judgment. I have apologized and paid the district as invoiced. I now hope to return to the business of ensuring that Durham's children receive the best education possible."

The school board chair says the emails come as a surprise after the superintendent was publicly reprimanded, DPS released a statement which said in part, "Board resources must be used as authorized by law and board policy and for public purposes. The board hopes this release of information helps make clear to school employees and the community, the district's commitment to proper use of school resources."

ABC11 spoke with the school board chair who told us board members are not allowed to make additional comments. She said this new information is being handled as a confidential personnel matter.

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durham county news, iteam, abc11 investigates, tamara gibbs
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